While Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial president of the Philippines, is trying to free his country from drugs and crime with an iron fist and cruel violence, his government now plans to broaden the legislation against pornography. Several tabloids publishing nude photos and erotic stories are about to be treated as pornographic writings. The law would probably be tantamount to a ban on newspapers. The opposition is outraged.
In Great Britain and other Western countries, the Page 3 nude girls were a fixture of tabloid newspapers, and in the Philippines as well it is a popular trick for tabloids to boost their circulation. Numerous tabloids in the country, where pornography is strictly forbidden, publish nude photos. But now the Philippine government wants to ban this practice.
A proposed bill is to ensure that the pictures are classified as pornography and treated as such. Precious Hipolito Castelo is a member of parliament from Quezon and has promoted the bill with the number 4773. The law wants to define »tabloids containing sexual stories and images as pornographic or X-rated, denominating them as only for adults.«
While pornography is forbidden, the citizens of the country are, of course, not deterred from consuming it. The 105 million inhabitants are estimated to be the tenth largest pornography market in the world. By 2006, the industry’s turnover was estimated at one billion dollars.
Tabloids will be banned from publishing erotic material
Castelo said, »Smutty tabloids should be regulated in such manner as to keep them at bay to protect the moral integrity of our children.« But pornography is also forbidden for adults in the Philippines, which led to the criticism that the real goal was to restrict freedom of the press.
It is not in good shape in the Philippines anyway. The country regularly ranks in the lower third of the index for press freedom. Several journalists have been killed while doing their jobs. So is this really about silencing inconvenient voices in the country?
Public health or censorship?
Castelo rejects this criticism. From her point of view, the increasing number of teenage pregnancies and HIV infections in the country are due to sexually stimulating depictions in the media. However, she does not provide any evidence of any link between the two factors.
Fighters for freedom of expression are therefore sharply critical of the plan. Danilo Arao is a professor at one of the country’s universities. He says: »HB 4733 could set the stage for media censorship without using the latter term.« After all, not only pictures but even »sexual stories« are mentioned in the bill. Such a vague phrasing opens the door to arbitrary censorship.